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KANGCHENJUNGA Killer Mountains An ExplorersWeb Series
16:49 p.m. EDT Oct 15, 2003
In ExplorersWeb's new series, we investigate messages hidden in unique statistics compiled by AdventureStats. We look at fatality rates for the 14 8000+ mountains. We started with the dreaded Karakorum/Pakistan giants and will now take a look at the Himalayan peaks. But we are not stopping there. We compare modern and old fatality statistics, trying to determine the effects of the arrival of commercial expeditions in 1990s. AdventureStats is providing the research and later, will also look into the causes of deaths.

Today, Everest has hosted close to 2,000 successful summits. 179 people have perished giving a fatality rate of 9.3% (fatality rate is defined as successful summits compared to fatalities). However, since 1990 there has been an explosion of summiteers and fatality statistics have changed. Up to 1990 the Everest fatality rate is a whopping 37%, yet from 1990 until today the rate has dropped to 4.4%. So how does that compare to the rest of the 8000+ peaks? Let's check it out.

Next Up: Kangchenjunga (8,586 m)

Kangchenjunga, also known as the “Five Treasures of the Great Snow,” is an immense mountain mass situated on the Sikkim-Nepal border and is the most easterly of the Himalayan peaks. The peak was once thought to be the tallest mountain in the world. Attempts to climb the peak started in 1905. But it was fifty years and at least eight expeditions later before British climbers George Band and Joe Brown first stood on its summit on May 25, 1955. Out of respect for Sikkimese religious beliefs, the party stopped just shy of the summit.

To date, only 185 climbers have summited Kangchenjunga and 40 have died. The overall fatality rate is thus about 22%, more than double Everest’s overall fatality rate of 9%. A comparison of recent statistics shows that Kangchenjunga’s rate actually has increased (!) slightly further over the last decade. Up until 1990, the Kangchenjunga fatality rate was just over 21%. But from 1990 until today, 18 people have died, and 81 have summited. Thus the rate increased to more than 22% – more than four times the modern Everest fatality rate of 4.4%.

Whilst the old Everest risk was 37% and Kangchenjunga’s about 22%, over the last decade Kangchenjunga’s rates (summit-fatality) did not decrease, as did Everest’s. In a later follow up, we will take a closer look at the causes.

At 8,586m, Kangchenjunga is the third tallest mountain of the world’s fourteen 8,000m peaks and is one of the ten 8000ers that lie in the Himalayan mountain range. With more than 110 peaks that rise over 7,000m, the Himalayan range is the longest, highest mountain range on earth and home to ten of the world’s tallest mountains, including Mount Everest. It extends over 1,500 miles long and 250 miles wide as it passes through Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet and India.

Though there were few summits on Kangchenjunga this year, there were many tense moments. Carlos Pauner, who scaled the peak on May 20th with Silvio “Gnaro” Mondinelli, Mario Merelli and Christian Kuntner, went missing on his way down from the summit. After three days without food and two nights out in the open, Pauner miraculously made it under his own power back to Base Camp, but later lost a couple of fingers and toes to frostbite. A Catalan expedition who attempted the peak this fall just called off their expedition due to the weather and mountain conditions. There were no fatalities this year.

With an overall fatality rate of just under 22% and modern fatality rate of just over 22%, Kangchenjunga is statistically more dangerous than Everest today.

Previous Articles - Killer Mountain Series

Cho Oyu
Nanga Parbat
Broad Peak

Image of Kangchenjunga courtesy of Gnaromondinelli.it.

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